I have been known to cry when a military band marches by in a parade. I’ve never known why I do this and usually try to hide it. Somehow my emotions are always stirred at the sight of soldiers marching. I’ve lived long enough to see patriotism be unfashionable and see it return. I guess I’ve always been patriotic. Even during the turbulent years of the Viet Nam war, I remember wearing a pin that said love it or leave it. I was young and probably didn’t understand all the nuances of politics; I was just patriotic.
When I heard the topic for the day, I thought hmm, that’s a hard one for me. Even though I’ve always been patriotic, I don’t remember Memorial Day (or Decoration Day when I was a small child) as a significant holiday. It was a day off of school. It was the first Sunday I’d sit alone in Sunday School as all my friends had fled with their parents to their beach houses in Long Island. We had no car. We had no beach house. We rode the Subway to Coney Island for our beach experiences.
My great grandfather (or maybe it is my great, great grandfather) fought in the Civil War. At least we think so, that side of my family history is murky including stories of horse thieves during the same war. My father was in the “great one” – World War ONE – yes, I did say father and did say WWI. He was a young Merchant Marine sailing on a Norwegian vessel when a German sub took them down. During WWII he was too old to serve. However, he was block warden and made sure everyone observed the black outs. I have uncles and cousin who are Veterans. My oldest granddaughter served for a short time until a broken bone sent her home. I see the faces of children I taught in Sunday School who are serving. I read the laments of spouses of these same children as their husband’s go to war now sanitized with terms like deployment.
I honor all of them today. While in my heart I think I want to be a pacifist, I am conflicted. Regardless of politics or religion, I still tear up at the sight of a Veteran’s cemetery. The graves so erect speak of the soldiers who died for my freedom. I wonder why freedom always comes with that price. My spiritual freedom was also paid with death.
Memorial Day also makes me think of Eben-Ezer. Playing on 53rd Street I could see the sign every day that said Eben-Ezer. It was the name of the Norwegian language church across the street. My father went there often for special meetings. Eben-Ezer literally means stone of help. It can also be translated “thus far the Lord has helped us” or in KJV, ” Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” Often we read in the Old Testament of stones of remembrance. Eben-Ezer was such a stone. It was a stone placed to help people remember God’s help.
Memorial Day is a day we decorate the stones of help, those erect graves standing in Veteran’s resting places all across the country and world. American blood was spilled and is still being spilled with the goal of bringing freedom. Let us pray that our leaders will make wise decision because the “Eben-Ezer’s” that line our cemeteries are a very high price to pay for freedom.